I woke to two texts sent seconds apart by my teenage children, both of whom were sleeping in a cottage bedroom a few feet from mine. The first read, “Whassup. Hikin?” The second, embracing proper grammar, read, “Are we still hiking?”
Overcast skies and misty morning rain nearly had put a damper on our plans to summit nearby Mount Major, a summer vacation spot in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire we’ve visited regularly since my oldest was an infant.
Not hiking wasn’t an option—even on a dismal July day. After all, we were nearing the end the end our 10-day vacation, and “Hike Mount Major” was on our literal checklist of things we do when we visit the lake, alongside items such as, “Ride the go karts,” and “Play mini-golf.” These rituals, typically shared with my mom (my kids’ grandmother), who still makes her home in New Hampshire, are sacred events in our family. And our trips to the East Coast simply wouldn’t be the same without them.
We didn’t set out to do the same things every year; it was never my intention to go back to the same ice cream stand or visit the same arcade again and again. In fact, when my children were younger I often tried different excursions—train rides, museums, science centers, playgrounds. Some of the activities got boring for them. But many—such as getting that favorite ice cream—stuck through the years.
Viewfinder Tip: When you visit the same places annually, take photos of your children in the same spots so you can see the kids grow over time.
And that makes sense to me: Children appreciate rituals in daily life, such as Tuesday Taco Night for family dinner, singing two songs and reading one book before bed, or baking favorite holiday treats.
Sharing everyday rituals at home helps promote family connections, belonging, and togetherness. Why wouldn’t we want to share similar rituals on vacation, too?
Navigating a new destination absolutely can be exciting and exhilarating; it’s so fun to make new memories together as a family, share foreign foods, or see world-famous landmarks together for the first time. But I argue that returning to the same vacation destination annually can be comforting and effortless for busy families.
We love to visit the Riviera Maya often, not only because the turquoise water on the Caribbean side of Mexico is incredibly inviting and beautiful, but because we now know the area so well. It doesn’t take long for us to get into “vacation mode” after settling into our Riviera Maya accommodations, because we already know the drill—where we’ll go shopping, which beaches to visit for boogie boarding, and how to get to our favorite adventure park, Xplor. We’re content in that part of Mexico, and that familiarity just puts us at ease from the start.
(Also, the odds are we’ll have a great time in the Riviera Maya because we’ve had so many great vacations there in prior years.)
No scenic vistas on our rainy-day mountain hike
Indeed, there’s something to be said for familiarity while traveling. And perhaps that’s why I didn’t give a second thought to hiking in a bit of rain along a New Hampshire mountain trail I’d walked before. I knew the path was heavily forested, and knew the exposed rocky bits would be manageable even if they were a bit slick. I knew what to expect, and there was comfort in that.
And so, on the morning of those fateful texts, my teens and I conquered Mount Major’s 1,786-foot summit. Typically a hike to the top provides phenomenal views of expansive Lake Winnipesaukee and the surrounding mountains. On our most recent hike, however, the summit was socked in by fog.
After taking some silly selfies and scarfing down some of my mom’s famous chocolate-chip cookies, we descended in still more rain for yet another East Coast vacation ritual: the lobster-roll lunch. There’s always next summer for summit selfies in the sun.
What are your vacation rituals?